We all know that children are picky eaters. For all parents, it’s easy to think about their children refusing to eat, because it’s a common scene across the world. Despite their best efforts, most parents, although aware of the benefits of nutrition and diet in the child’s growth and development, are unable to convince their children to eat healthily.
Why is Nutrition so Important?
There’s a strong connection between growth and learning with nutrition. Nutrition is as important for children as it is for adults, but children’s nutritional needs are different. They need higher and better nutrition than adults. While it is true that the three factors that play a crucial role in the child’s development are nutrition, environment, and genes, it’s nutrition that goes a long way in improving their health and academic performance in later years.
Health and Nutrition
There is a strong connection between health and nutrition and we all know how important nutrition is for a healthy body. Any disparity between the nutrition we need and nutrition we get can lead to growth mismatch.
Children need just the right amount of nutrition, just like adults, and under or over nutrition can cause health issues. The benefits of good nutrition toward health are well known. When growing children are given nutritious food, they will suffer less from severe illnesses like diarrhoea and meningitis. This is because children with better nutrition have better immunity to fight infections. Undernutrition has its own set of health problems. It can lead to a decrease in the child’s daily activities, social life, and thinking and behavioural abilities.
Academic Performance and Nutrition
It has been proven beyond doubt that what a child eats affects his/her academic performance. The child’s brain is growing at a rapid pace and nutrition plays a very important role in helping the child think and read. For example, children that are breastfed have higher IQ, while children with iron deficiency have reduced cognitive abilities at schools.
Sports and Nutrition
We all know the role that nutrition plays in enhancing our body. Look at all the sportspersons and you’ll know why they give so much importance to nutrition. The same is true for children. If they need to develop endurance for sports, they need better nutrition.
You need to plan carefully for the healthy growth of your child and this starts with healthy food full of minerals, vitamins, and proteins that are essential for their growth. As opposed to adults, children process food better as their metabolism is better.
Here’s a nutritional age-wise chart. The chart contains nutrition for both boys and girls. Plan your child’s diet based on this chart.
For the first year, give your child only breast milk.
|Age||Food Group||Daily Requirements (Boys)||Daily Requirements (Girls)||Food|
|2-3 Years||Protein||70gm||70gm||Pulses and lentils, chicken, soya nuggets, egg whites|
|2-3 Years||Fruits (Change fruits daily to get diverse nutrition)||1-1.5 cups||1-1.5 cups||Seasonal and assorted fruits|
|2-3 Years||Vegetables (Change vegetables daily to get diverse nutrition)||1-1.5 cups||1-1.5 cups||Seasonal and assorted vegetables (if the child doesn’t like vegetables, you can boil them with a little salt and black pepper).|
|2-3 Years||Grains||100gm||100gm||Wheat, rice, ragi, jowar, bajra, corn/maize|
|2-3 Years||Dairy||2 cups||2 cups||Milk, curd, some ghee, paneer, cheese, khoya|
|4-8 Years||Protein||85-150 gm||85-140 gm||Pulses and lentils, chicken, soya nuggets, egg whites|
|4-8 Years||Fruits||1-1.5 cups||1-1.2 cups||Seasonal and assorted fruits|
|4-8 Years||Vegetables||1.5-2.5 cups||1.5-2.5 cups||Seasonal and assorted vegetables (if the child doesn’t like vegetables, you can boil them with a little salt and black pepper).|
|Grains||115-170 gm||115-170 gm||Wheat, rice, ragi, jowar, bajra, corn/maize|
|4-8 Years||Dairy||2.5 cups||2.5 cups||Milk, curd, some ghee, paneer, cheese, khoya|
|9-13 Years||Protein||140-185 gm||115-170 gm||Pulses and lentils, chicken, soya nuggets, egg whites|
|9-13 Years||Fruits||1.5-2 cups||1.5-2 cups||Seasonal and assorted fruits|
|9-13 Years||Vegetables||2-3.5 cups||1.5-3 cups||Seasonal and assorted vegetables (if the child doesn’t like vegetables, you can boil them with a little salt and black pepper).|
|Grains||140-255 gm||140-255 gm||Wheat, rice, ragi, jowar, bajra, corn/maize|
|9-13 Years||Dairy||3 cups||3 cups||Milk, curd, some ghee, paneer, cheese, khoya|
|14-18 Years||Protein||155-200 gm||140-185 gm||Pulses and lentils, chicken, soya nuggets, egg whites|
|14-18 Years||Fruits||2-2.5 cups||1.5-2 cups||Seasonal and assorted fruits|
|14-18 Years||Vegetables||2.5-4 cups||2.5-3 cups|
|Grains||170-285 gm||170-225 gm||Wheat, rice, ragi, jowar, bajra, corn/maize|
|14-18 Years||Dairy||3 cups||3 cups||Milk, curd, some ghee, paneer, cheese, khoya|
There are other foods too that you can give your child. If you want to introduce your child to any food that you eat at home or which has not been mentioned in the chart, talk to your paediatrician first.
Processed Milk Food
As mentioned earlier, children are fussy eaters. Some children may take instant liking to some food and may not like eating some other food. In that case, most parents give their children milk food supplements. Milk food supplements are not healthy and can make your child obese in the long run. Also, these supplements are processed, which means they do have some chemicals or preservatives in some form and quantities which is not good for a growing child. They make your child feel full and give them the recommended daily nutrition but in the long run, can cause serious health issues.
If your child hesitates to eat home-cooked food, sit with them and make them understand why it’s important to eat nutritionally-rich food. Tell them how nutrition will help them grow to be healthy individuals.
We all know that water makes up more than half of our body weight and is crucial to keep our body functioning normally. While adults ideally need about 8-10 glasses of water every day, there’s no specific water intake recommended for children. However, it’s good to give them water throughout the day and not just when they are thirsty or ask for it. It’s said that babies do not need water during the first year of life, however, you can give them water after the baby is 9-10 months old. The water has to be boiled and cooled and only a spoon or two must be given at a time. It’s better to check with your doctor once if your child can be given water.
- Teach your children healthy eating habits and physical activities early on. Children follow their parents, so become good role models.
- School going kids grow quickly and change physically and mentally, so ensure their food habits too change. Introduce them to new food once in a while.
- Eat at least 1 meal with your child on weekdays and two-three meals every weekend. When you eat healthy, they will emulate in eating healthy.
- Keep TV, computers, and mobiles away when you are with your child.
- When you eating with your child, tell him about the benefits of the food on the plate. Tell them about the nutritional value of the food and how it’s beneficial for them.
- Small children have small stomachs and get full quickly. Don’t force your child to eat when they say they are full. Give them child-sized servings.
- Give them fruit or something healthy between meals.